NASCIO Elects Minnesota CIO Gopal Khanna as New President; Former Philadelphia CIO Dianah Neff Cleared of Allegations

Book Review: The Business Benefits of GIS: An ROI Approach

by / December 28, 2008

Gopal Khanna has been elected president of NASCIO, the organization of state CIOs. Considered a rising star among a new breed of public CIOs, Khanna - who is CIO of Minnesota - takes over for John Gillispie of Iowa.

Khanna, who has been state CIO since 2005, has a background that reflects the new generation of public-sector CIOs. He has an MBA from the University of Maine, has studied economics and political science in his home country of India, and has experience in both the private and public sector, including work with the George W. Bush administration before his current position.

Taking over the nation's largest public-sector organization of CIOs in these turbulent times doesn't daunt Khanna. Lack of funds is always an issue in the public sector, according to Khanna, who spoke with Government Technology TV (GTtv) shortly after his election during the NASCIO annual conference in September. Instead Khanna wants to see the discussion focus on enhancing the digital infrastructure at the state and national levels so that government can support the services that citizens have come to expect and provide a platform for innovative economic development.

"Yes, economic times are going to be tough because many of our projects might be stopped," he said. "However, it gives us an opportunity to be ingenious and build a new environment that supports the leveraging of the digital infrastructure of the country and position America to the next level."

During his one-year term as NASCIO president, Khanna will be joined by Vice President Gary Robinson (CIO, Washington); Secretary-Treasurer Kyle Schafer (CTO, West Virginia); and past-President John Gillispie.


Former Philadelphia CIO Cleared of Allegations

Long-time government CIO Dianah Neff has been cleared of allegations that she violated Pennsylvania's Ethics Act as Philadelphia's IT executive when she took a job with a firm to which she had directed five contracts. However, Neff was fined $500 for not reporting her income sources in 2006 and failing to report foreign trip expenses paid on her behalf in 2004 and 2005, according to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Neff was former Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street's CIO and developed the now-troubled Wireless Philadelphia initiative.

Hired in 2001, she resigned in September 2006 to join a Georgia consulting firm, Civitium, as a senior partner. As part of the wireless initiative, she had negotiated five no-bid contracts with Civitium totaling more than $453,000, according to The Inquirer.

In clearing Neff of the allegations, the State Ethics Commission reported the former CIO had not begun discussions with Civitium about a possible job until more than a year after she had last participated in a contract award. Also, discussion of a job was initiated by Civitium, and the firm was one of four companies Neff was talking with, the commission said.

In her city job, Neff frequently traveled across the country and overseas to speak at technology conventions and promote the city's wireless program. Neff was cited for unintentionally violating rules when she failed to disclose three trips on forms.

Prior to her job as CIO for Philadelphia, Neff held senior IT positions for several local governments, including Palo Alto, Calif., and San Bernardino County, Calif. In 2003 she was named one of Government Technology magazine's Top top 25, Doers, Dreamers and Drivers.


Transitions, Recognitions

When you have more than a half-million customers who rely on you for the basics of living - food, clothing, housing - then any improvement in delivering these benefits could be singled out for recognition. But Daniel Chan, CIO of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, decided to go the extra mile, designing and launching a Web site (in just 17 weeks) that connects New York's poorest families and the state's community partners with temporary assistance and food stamp services through a digital government hub.

For his leadership and vision, Chan received the New York state Public Sector CIO of the Year award in September at the annual Government Technology Conference East conference in Albany, N.Y.

Known as myBenefits, the Web-based program can be used as a prescreening tool for potential applicants' eligibility for a wide range of benefits, including food stamps, cash assistance and food for infants and children.

The FBI's top IT executive has resigned. Zalmai Azmi, who was CIO of the country's top law enforcement agency since 2004, has stepped down after leading the agency through some of its most turbulent IT-related projects. Shortly after taking over, Azmi had to scrap a $170 million software system that was supposed to manage case files but never functioned properly. In 2004, few FBI employees had desktop access to the Internet. Today more than 20,000 BlackBerry smartphones have been deployed to agents.

Mike Howell, the U.S. Department of the Interior's CIO, has been named the Office of Management and Budget's deputy director of e-government and IT, replacing Tim Young, who had held the post since 2004.

Steve Ferguson has left the valley for the bay. In September, Ferguson departed from his job as CIO of Sacramento, Calif., to become CIO of San Jose, Calif. Ferguson launched Sacramento's 311 hotline, installed a citywide customer relationship management system, overhauled a utility billing system and introduced online permitting.

Speaking of the West Coast, California CIO Teri Takai received NASCIO's Meritorious Service Award for her outstanding service, advocacy and leadership in state government, and for championing the mission of state CIOs.

Book Review

The Business Benefits of GIS: An ROI Approach
By David Maguire, Victoria Kouyoumjian, Ross Smith
ESRI Press, $24.95

Although GIS technology has improved significantly in the past few decades, there's been little progress in measuring its business value. In the public sector, where geospatial data is viewed as increasingly important to the business of government, showing ROI can solidify the technology's value at a time of so many competing interests and so few taxpayer dollars.

The Business Benefits of GIS
by David Maguire, Victoria Kouyoumjian and Ross Smith lays out a methodology for calculating this value, based on return on investment (ROI) calculations. The book is for executives (e.g., GIS professional managers, system analysts, etc.) who must justify their investments in GIS technology and organizations lacking GIS capability that want to evaluate the possible tangible benefits for their company.

The ROI methodology, originally developed by PA Consulting Group, is broad enough to apply to both public and private organizations. The book does not demand much previous knowledge and is therefore easily comprehensible; it only requires an understanding of GIS and basic knowledge of business concepts.

The authors created a 10-step process that guides readers from project preparation to the final business report. Each chapter details one step of the process, and they all include an account of the objectives, an explanation of the tasks in each step and a review of the outcome. The book also includes various electronic templates for managing data. A case study of a fictitious city also is included at the end of every chapter, helping to address a broad range of business issues.

The methodology focuses on six topics essential to establishing GIS value: demonstrating business value, determining specific costs, estimating the time frame for receiving benefits, understanding resource requirements, defining governance and management, and evaluating the ROI.

The Business Benefits of GIS takes an applicable, hands-on approach to explaining ROI methodology and includes an accompanying Web site that contains digital versions of the book's chapters, templates, a glossary, a discussion forum for exchanging advice, and a reading list for further information on GIS and the ROI approach.